View Poll Results: Which instrument is harder?

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Thread: Organ vs Piano, Which one's harder?

  1. #1
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    Default Organ vs Piano, Which one's harder?

    I remember watching a video from WatchMojo about the top 10 most difficult instruments. At no 9 was the organ and at no 5 was the piano. This didn't seem right to me. I could understand the piano being right in the middle but the organ at no 9 just didn't seem right.

    Why would the organ be easier than the piano? No need for sustain pedal is the only reason I can think of.

    Here is what makes advanced piano difficult:
    • Hand crossing is necessary
    • Written unisons(both hands playing the same note) are impossible to play as 2 of the same note
    • Fingers reach a speed limit of 32nd notes at quarter note = 120 BPM
    • Octave leaps
    • Octaves within triplets
    • Legato octaves


    In principle, everything here except the hand crossing and written unisons would also be true for advanced organ. But here are the reasons the organ seems much more difficult to me than the piano:
    • Multiple keyboards(I once saw an organ with 12 keyboards. It looked like a box full of keyboards)
    • Same octave sounds different on different keyboards
    • Some organs have a lot of knobs right by the keyboards
    • Foot pedals
    • More dynamic control is needed


    But I hear you say "Piano transcriptions of organ pieces are harder than the original pieces." To that, I would say Yes, at least for Baroque pieces. I mean, there is a spot in the Tocatta and Fugue in D minor, where, as a pianist, my hands get intertwined(hand crossing but in such a narrow window instead of several octaves). This wouldn't be a problem on the organ.

    But you could also argue, at least for some pieces, that playing it on the piano would be easier than playing it on the organ, even if it was originally composed for organ. So really, is the organ easier? I don't think so.

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  3. #2
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Tough question ... in some ways the piano, at least for me, is the hardest of the two to learn. I will never master either as even after 57+ years in my career as a professional organist, I still have lots more to learn. The day I stop learning is the day I keel over into my soup bowl during lunch.

    An organist can enlist one or both feet to play the lowest notes that may be a stretch for the pianist. On the other hand, there are the mechanical aspects of the organ, multiple keyboards (largest playing organ in the world only has 7 manuals), stop selection, expression controls, and lots and lots of coordination as both hands and feet are playing notes simultaneously reading from a 3 staff score.

    Fast forward to the present day . . . my present church position requires that I play both instruments equally. We have multiple services and the piano is solely used for one of those, and a balance of the two (organ/piano) in another service, and organ solo in another service leading hymns, accompanying the choirs, etc.

    I love both instruments equally and am able to switch back and forth with great ease and professionalism.

    I do have a piano at home and regularly use it to practice notes for organ repertoire. My present church is a mere 4 minute drive from home so I can go there any time of the day or night to practice in solitude. My best practice sessions are very very late at night, sometimes after 11:00pm.

    There are some who firmly believe that learning piano should come first before the organ. I am one of those people ... I began with 6 years of private study on the piano, then 6 years of private study on the organ, then another 2 years of organ study in college. I started playing the organ in church in 1961 and continue to do so to this day, now serving a large ELCA Lutheran church with 1,400 members, 4 choirs, 2 pastors, and 4 services, 3 of which I play for as paid/salaried staff member.

    Kh

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  5. #3
    Senior Member Klavierspieler's Avatar
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    The nature of both instruments is such that a composer can compose music of indefinite difficulty; therefore, it's somewhat pointless to ask which is harder...

    However, in my very limited experience, I think you're maybe less likely to damage yourself playing the organ. But my Organ experience is very small compared to piano, so I may very well be wrong on that.
    Last edited by Klavierspieler; Nov-17-2018 at 21:53.

  6. #4
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    I would think it also largely depends on the musician. Different people have different experiences, so their answers will of course also be different.
    It's also kind of like asking whether a cello is more difficult than a violin. There are inherent advantages and disadvantages for each.
    I would think that it's more difficult for beginners to learn the organ without any experience with a keyboard instrument, than it is to learn the piano. In, advanced piano or organ, I would also think that the organ is more difficult because of all the knobs and treads.
    It would also depend on what type of organ is being discussed. Reed, pump, pipe? I've only played a pump organ once or twice, but I figured it out pretty quickly, at least enough to play a simple piece for a small audience.
    But if I tried to play a reed or pipe organ, I'm quite certain I'd have a lot more difficulty.
    And if an organist with no experience on the piano tried to play, they may just have to get accustomed to the different pedals. I doubt it would take long for them to get a piece out.
    So I would then conclude that the organ in general is probably a more difficult instrument.
    But I also don't have a whole lot of experience.

  7. #5
    Senior Member philoctetes's Avatar
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    My first instrument was Hammond organ at age 6. Later I took some piano lessons, but never have been proficient at either.

    I think at 6 the organ might have been easier than the piano, for me, just by how it responds to touch and has more of a "vocal" sound. I don't recall having much of an appreciation of the piano at that age, but this is maybe about exposure and environment.

    I guess the early experience sticks. I still play wheezy honky wind instruments and enjoy organ music by Messiaen, Franck, and that acid jazz thing too, Lonnie Liston Smith, Larry Young etc...
    Last edited by philoctetes; Nov-20-2018 at 23:24.

  8. #6
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    The basic difference between the organ and the piano is the durability or how long the notes can sustain. It is more in organ than piano. Because of the air pressure when you press the key in the organ it moves throughout the pipe of the string and it can sustain the tune for longer time and in piano it can withhold for few seconds and then it dies. But, so many beginners feel easy to learn playing the organ than pianos. But most of the professional player says, it is easy to play piano as maintaining the sustain is easy with the control in pedals. In organ all the sustaining functions of the notes should be handled with fingers and it is little difficult to achieve when compared to piano. But the regular practice makes everything easier so it is better to own the musical instruments like portable keyboard piano or digital pianos at home.

  9. #7
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    It depends on the definition of harder and of how well one wants to play.

    To play the piano well . . . um . . . that's hard.

    But to enjoy oneself at the piano in a very amateur way is another matter.

    As commented above the organ gives the opportunity of feet to play the bass, making the left hand very lazy so making the piano very much harder but the organ involves so many things to think about concurrently . . . in that is the difficulty.

    Best wishes

    David Pinnegar

  10. #8
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    For me wasn’t hard, because I think the keyboard work is a little easier than the piano. On organ, you don’t need to worry about pressure on the keys and the keys themselves are usually very light but I have a harder time with on piano. The main challenge was the bass pedals. The expression pedals were pretty self-explanatory, but the bass pedals require a whole other level of harmonic awareness.

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    With quite a bit of organ music, if the musician is playing a church organ, he has the opportunity to adapt the piece to the instrument, choosing registrations for example. And then there’s the question of the room, the acoustic of the church, to take into account, the delay for the sound to get to the audience, and the effects of reverberation.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-24-2019 at 08:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    . . . if the musician is playing a church organ, he has the opportunity to adapt the piece to the instrument, choosing registrations for example . . .
    So very true. And often times the suggested registrations (by the composer) were based upon the instrument he or she was playing at the time the piece was written. We don't all have access to 3 and 5 manual consoles or hundreds of ranks of pipes. We must adapt to the particular instrument that is at our disposal.

    If a composer indicated a 32' stop for the pedal registration and the organ I'm playing at the time doesn't have a 32' pedal stop, I will still consider playing the piece ... not all of us have 32' pedal stops on our pipe organs. Most of the larger electronic/digital do, however.

    For 34 years I was the organist in a church with a II/9 Moller Pipe organ. I played many concerts on that organ including the Chorale No 3 in A minor (Franck) and the Sonata I (Mendelssohn) and many other large organ works. We work with the resources we have at our disposal.

    Kh

  13. #11
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    Good post OP I play both and find the organ is much harder but I am less practiced with the organ.

  14. #12
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    I think the organ is far harder since you have to worry about the feet!

  15. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by dannyrichardson View Post
    I think the organ is far harder since you have to worry about the feet!
    It's easier to learn that you might think. There are excellent method books for learning to play the pedals which is part of the regimen for 1st year organ students.

    It's almost like driving a car - we know where the clutch, break and gas pedals are without looking, right? Organists learn to play the pedals by rote, and lots of practicing. I seldom look down at my feet - they do their thing, and my two hands do theirs and it all works out together.
    Kh
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